Board may still face city personnel issue

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 8, 2004

Brookhaven aldermen deserve at least a small pat on the backfollowing their discussion about solid waste personnel moves duringlast week’s meeting.

Despite discussions involving specific employees, the boardchose not to take up the matter behind closed doors in executivesession. We would encourage the board to continue this course ofaction in the future.

While the personnel discussion was in open meeting, the resultsof the discussion are a bit troubling.

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Instead of making a tough decision to release even one formerSanitation Department employee, the board voted to keep all 17employed – at least temporarily – in some capacity with the city.Officials’ concern about not losing jobs is commendable, but theiraction does nothing to address the high personnel costs of keepingthe workers.

What it does is move some of the costs from the separate solidwaste budget – which was losing money in part because of theoverpopulation of employees – to the general fund budget.

The impact of the additional employees on the general fund hasnot been determined. City officials hope to have cost estimates forthe rest of the fiscal year for aldermen to consider when revisingthe budget at the next meeting.

A cursory review of employee expenses suggests the personnelmoves mean that an additional $275,000-$300,000 will have to comeout of the general fund budget. That could further reduce carryoverfunds that were needed to help make this year’s budget balance.

If the employees are retained into the new fiscal year thatstarts in October, aldermen will have to factor those costs intothe new budget. Those costs could impact the availability of fundsneeded for equipment, paving or other city services.

The general fund gets its money primarily from sales tax, overwhich the city has no control, and property taxes. Trying to fixsolid waste problems now should not lead to a tax increaselater.

Can citizens and other city departments get some benefits fromthe former solid waste department workers?

If officials follow through on ditch-cleaning and litter pick upplans that have been discussed, then the answer is yes. Butaldermen and city department heads must keep a close watch on thework productivity situation and make sure the added costs to thegeneral fund are justified.

Otherwise, aldermen have not really solved any financialproblems related to former solid waste workers. They’re only takingthe money to pay the employees from a different city pocket.